After a 15-month effort, dancers at a club in Southern California are now poised to become the only unionized strippers in the United States.
The Actors' Equity Association, which represents more than 51,000 actors and entertainers, says the owners of the Star Garden Topless Dive Bar in North Hollywood have withdrawn their challenges and agreed to recognize the strippers' union.
"If you have been following our journey, then you know this has been a long, exhausting fight, which is why this victory is so sweet," said Reagan, one of the Star Garden dancers. "We put everything we have into this campaign, and we were fortunate to have the support and solidarity from the club’s patrons, our allies and friends, the labor movement and our union, Actors’ Equity Association."
As a result of the settlement, lawyers representing Star Garden have agreed to meet with the strippers' union within 30 days to begin negotiating their first contract. The club will also reopen for business and welcome back the dancers who were let go last year.
“I’m excited that all of my beautiful coworkers will finally have a seat at the table and a voice to discuss safety and other issues,” said Sinder, another Star Garden dancer. “This is a big day for us and dancers everywhere.”
The entire movement started in March of last year, when security guards at the club "repeatedly failed to protect" dancers from patrons' threatening and abusive behavior, Actors' Equity said in a statement. But when the dancers brought their concerns to management, they were fired.
With the help of Strippers United, a non-profit that advocates for strippers' rights, Star Garden dancers began picketing outside the club. Then, in August 2022, the dancers announced they had affiliated with Actors' Equity and scheduled a vote to unionize. That's when Star Garden filed legal objections, effectively putting the union vote on hold. The club also filed for bankruptcy protection.
As part of this week's settlement, Star Garden has agreed to dismiss its bankruptcy filing and reopen the club, lawyers representing Star Garden said in a statement. The club has also agreed not to rehire any security guards that have worked at Star Garden in the past.
"We’re looking forward to having a productive relationship with the club that benefits dancers and also helps the club to thrive," said Actors' Equity Association President Kate Shindle.
This isn't the first time strippers in the U.S. have tried to unionize. In 1997, dancers at San Francisco's Lusty Lady organized the Exotic Dancers Union. However, that club was shuttered in 2013, meaning workers at Star Garden will become the country's only existing unionized strippers once certified by the National Labor Relations Board.
“I am looking forward to working with the club owners to rebuild Star Garden into a thriving, inclusive business with a healthy work environment that serves the community,” said Velveeta, a Star Garden dancer.
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